At 9 a.m. Sunday morning, Chuck and Susan Murray pull their vintage VW van painted with farm scenes into the parking spot behind their allotted 10-by-10 space at the Kamm’s Corners Farmers Market. They unload produce from their 35-acre farm in Clarksfield Township (near Wellington) and spend the next hour arranging the bounty, picked the night before, into picture-pretty displays. To get there on time, the couple wakes up extra-early to care for their animals before making the hour-plus drive.
When Chuck bought the property in 2001, he had no intention of becoming a farmer. He just wanted to live in the country, running his advertising agency out of the house. But it seemed a shame not to do something productive with all that land. So he tried growing flowers, but couldn’t sell them. Noticing the increasing interest in naturally raised, local food, he concentrated on vegetables. Along the way, he acquired 150 chickens and 12 sheep to supply Susan, a spinner and weaver, with wool.
With no training or experience, the 48-year-old learned by doing and failing. He’s had the best luck with corn, tomatoes and eggs, but he is always trying something new. “I put in 2,000 asparagus plants in 2005. It takes three years before they’re ready. I brought the first crop to the market last spring. I should have a lot more this year,” he says. When Susan was laid off in December, the family’s farming life took on added importance.
Measuring his success, Chuck says, “The farm’s not a money-loser, and real soon, I think it’s actually going to be a moneymaker.”